28 November 2006 | fudge_farmer
Better than Studio 60
After the last few lackluster seasons of Saturday Night Live, I was worried that this show would suffer from the same affliction as those terrible SNL-based films, like The Ladies Man, Superstar, Coneheads, Night at the Roxbury.... but 30 Rock is actually a character-driven comedy, rather than a gag-driven one like those films.
Tina Fey managed to put together a great cast using classic sitcom archetypes. Alec Baldwin is hilarious and subdued as the meddling nitwit boss, Tracey Morgan is genuinely brilliant as the wild and crazy black guy, and newcomer Jack McBrayer is thoroughly enjoyable as the creepy intern. Of course, the whole show is centered on Tina Fey, the constantly put-upon producer of an SNL-type late night comedy show. She has great comedic sensibilities, but she has wisely surrounded herself with a fantastic ensemble cast.
The show is literally jam-packed with laugh-out-loud gags, so even when one joke doesn't work, there's at least two other jokes that do work around the corner. After Tracey Morgan's last sitcom flopped, I feared that we'd seen the last of him. As the Martin Lawrence-esquire egocentric star of the show-within-a-show, Morgan excels. Without the burden of carrying the entire show, Morgan is able to fully realize his potential playing 30 Rock's a psychotic, preening celebrity host. The real gem on the show is Alec Baldwin, who usually gets the best one-liners as the idiot-savant NBC executive who can manage a big business but not his own life. But what really makes the show work is its cast of veteran comedic character actors who staff the fictional comedy show, including Scott Adsit of HBO's Mr. Show and Judah Friedlander from the film American Splendor.
30 Rock premiered on NBC at the same time as the similarly themed Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, another SNL-based series. While Studio 60 took the dramatic route, 30 Rock went comedic. In the end, 30 Rock is better, however. Studio 60 suffers from too much moralizing and a large cast that the scripts can't quite manage to service.
My only complaint about 30 Rock is that we don't see enough of SNL-alum Rachel Dratch on camera. Rumor has it that she was meant to be a main cast member, but the network demanded her role be cut out. It's a shame because she is one of the funniest women in television.